Love Island: All the depth of a paddling pool
Contestants on the fourth season seem to have forgotten to pack their personalities
The perfect brain getaway: Love Island began its fourth season on Monday
It’s hard to fathom, in these days of infinite choice and the avalanche of prestige TV, that people still exist who are upset and outraged by the very notion of Love Island. Since the show amassed a record-breaking viewership for ITV2 last year, it feels like every cultural commentator has attempted to analyse its worth and pour scorn on its empty escapism. Of course, there is no real intellectual value in watching an Essex wide boy chase after Danny Dyer’s daughter but why does there have to be?
When the show began its fourth season on Monday there was the usual barrage of tweets about its “vacuity”, with Mariella Frostrup tuning in for the first time just so she could despair about its lack of feminism and post a viral tweet about the decline of society. One uppity moral crusader pointed out that more people registered to go on the show than applied for a place in Oxford or Cambridge. This misguided tweet failed to acknowledge the obvious: unlike Oxford or Cambridge, the egalitarian utopia of Love Island is open to all people from all backgrounds (once they subscribe to the generic standards of modern beauty, of course).
We are now at a tipping point; as the show’s popularity increases, it’s up to this clutch of 11 single showmancers to ensure that Love Island hasn’t jumped the inflatable shark.
Unlike last year, when the unexpected success of the show saw every new arrival informing the disbelieving bunch that Liam Gallagher was a fan and that they were smashing the ratings and outstripping reality rival Big Brother, this year the group are keenly aware that all eyes are on them and are currently more cautious than their raucous, cheery predecessors. It’s as though this time they all forgot to pack personalities along with their BooHoo bikinis and teeth-whitening kits.
There is the overexcitable Niall, who attempts to ingratiate himself with the viewers by using the traditional Love Island lexicon of “bants”, “pied”, “melt” and “grafting”. Adam is the new Muggy Mike, swooping in to steal doll-like Kendall from Niall, whose skin-tight jeans make his legs look like two giant denim hams. Then there’s flight attendant Laura, who seems to have studied the aesthetics of last year’s Queen of Mean Olivia, but has failed to capture the true essence of her glorious panto-villain swivel-eyed bitchiness. The new batch will have to up their game and be themselves if they want to make a lasting impression.
Alex was not made for Love Island. It feels as though his application for Cambridge or Only Connect got accidentally mixed in with the ITV questionnaire
Model Eyal (a gap-year version of Hansel from Zoolander) wants to distinguish himself from the others. He is very concerned about not being perceived as “superficial” and spends time announcing to everyone how “deep” he is. “I want to have meaningful conversations,” he tells Scouse beauty queen Hayley, who bats her lash extensions and replies “what’s superficial mean? I love talking, me” and then continuously fails to remember her match’s name, working her way through a series of soundalikes – Eeyore, Igor, Eagle – until she decides that this may be all too difficult for her and secretly makes a plan to sack him for someone with a name she can remember. Eyal has all the depth of a paddling pool and the charisma of a used swimming sock, but due to his feline features is managing to fare better than poor junior doctor Alex.
Alex was not made for Love Island. It feels as though his application for Cambridge or Only Connect got accidentally mixed in with the ITV questionnaire. Posh, shy and awkward, he is the outsider of the confident, bantering laddie bunch, with an unfortunate penchant for wearing shirts the same colour as his burned skin giving him the look of a barbecued prawn. He is becoming a pitiable figure in the villa, with Hayley dodging his kisses and match Samira ignoring him.
His only hope are the new arrivals, or to have a Camilla-like transformation into the sweetheart of the show. Perhaps if he started a Chris and Kem-style bromance with pen salesman Jack he might survive or just live out the rest of his time on the island as their sexual health adviser, a Love Island/Embarrassing Bodies spin-off surely awaits.
Though it may be a faded facsimile of last year, it’s still a beautiful game. The perfect brain getaway that is Love Island remains as addictive as ever.